International Francqui Professor Inaugural Lecture – Pr. François Crépeau

Mobility and Migration Diversity: New Horizons for Human Rights
23 February, 2018

Professor François Crépeau delivering the Inaugural Lecture as Francqui International Professor on February 08, 2018.

François Crépeau will be at the Université Catholique de Louvain from January to June 2018 as part of the Chair Francqui International Professor for Human Sciences, organised in collaboration with seven universities (UCLouvain, KULeuven, UAntwerpen, UGent, ULiège, USt-Louis Brussels, ULBrussels). He will be staying at the Centre Charles De Visscher pour le droit international et européen (CeDIE) within the Équipe droits européens et migrations (EDEM).

To access the lecture, please click here

  François Crépeau, who just completed a six-year term as the United Nations' leading investigator on the human rights of migrants, says sealed borders are fantasy. (ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Why nothing will stop people from migrating: an interview with François Crépeau

Article on CBC
7 January, 2018

For the last six years, Canadian lawyer François Crépeau has served as the United Nations’ leading investigator and expert on the human rights of migrants. His post put him on the frontlines of an international crisis, during some of the most challenging years in recent memory…

He spoke to The Sunday Edition host Michael Enright about his time as UN special rapporteur and about why he believes resisting migration is an impossible goal.

In the last six years, in your position with the UN, you’ve travelled around the world. You’ve visited detention centres, camps, places where people try to cross borders. What stands out in your mind now from those visits?

François Crépeau: I was expecting this to be very grim. And what stood out from day one, when visiting detention centres or camps, was the sheer determination, the grit, the courage of those people — the fact that even if they were detained, in their mind they were already somewhere else. They were already in the next step of their journey. They might be sent back home, but they would come back.

They are going to come whether we like it or not, because this is what humankind has always done. They are going to try to find a place where they can thrive, flourish, feed their kids and educate their kids. They don’t do it, often, because they like it. They do it because that’s where the future lies for themselves and their families

To access the article, please click here

  The aftermath of a Syrian Air Force strike on the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus. Photo Credit: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

Living in a void: life in Damascus after the exodus

Article in The Guardian
25 August, 2017

An excellent article about those who stay home and receive news of those who have gone abroad. Many thanks to Raoul

“I would like to say something along the lines of how the refugees are Syria’s loss and the world’s gain, but I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Abandoning one’s identity is like ripping a heart out of a body. I think of the families of friends who have migrated en masse. For example, I received a phone call from the father of a friend, a man over 70 years old, who spoke to me in tears. He just wanted to speak to someone who understood his language, who understood the secrets of the language, who would listen to a joke in his version of colloquial Syrian and who would have a hearty laugh with him. A hearty laugh – that’s a metaphor for the way people like to live, and refugees in general do not find many reasons to laugh, especially in their first years in exile. But not long after that conversation, the phones stopped ringing. Everyone had dropped into the black hole of exile.”

To access the full article, please click here


Opening the Door to a New Solution

Article in Forced Migration Forum
27 July, 2017

A truly excellent novel, now long-listed for the Booker Prize, about how the world could adapt to global mobility, and how individuals strive creatively when given mobility opportunities.

“Today, there are over 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. Of those, over 21 million are refugees. 21 million individuals have been forced to move from their homes in search of safety elsewhere. In our world today, refugees move through borders and swim through oceans; in Mohsin Hamid’s world in Exit West, refugees move by stepping through doors. Hamid offers readers (and perhaps even refugees themselves) a new lens through which to view and understand refugees: agency. The thread of agency is apparent throughout the novel – from the choices the characters make about their clothes and lifestyle, to decisions about the kind of life they want to live. However, the more apparent fact is that agency is dependent on mobility;  refugees need mobility to exercise agency over their lives.”

To access the full article, please click here

  Demonstrators stage a beach party outside the French Embassy, in Knightsbridge, London, in protest against burkini bans. Photo Credit: EPA

European Court of Human Rights upholds Belgium’s ban on burqas and full-face Islamic veils

Article in The Independent
17 July, 2017

Another wrong decision on the part of the European Court of Human Rights.

How can a ban on full face covering not be discriminatory when the full face covering is banned when Muslim, but allowed in many other circumstances not defined as Islamic? Indeed, a scarf over one’s face protects from the cold, as is the case for months on end in Canada. A full face helmet protects most motorcyclists. A mask protects from pollution or dust, as is often the case in New York or other cities. A face covering may be worn to protect the skin against the sun. And I remember mantillas worn in church by ladies when I was young and which are still often a fashion statement when attached to a small hat. Why should, without any other specific circumstance, protecting one’s face from the view of others be treated differently?

The idea that such a general distinction can be justified by vague notions such as principles of “living together” or the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”, without specifics, seems totally insufficient. Distinctions made between individuals without justification are prohibited discriminations. A justification is often possible (showing one’s face for identity controls before taking a flight is a good example), but it needs to respond to specific criteria. Restrictions to freedom should be specific, individualised, necessary and limited to the minimum restriction possible.

For example, a young football player should not be permitted to wear a head scarf with a knot under the chin, as she could get accidentally strangled in a kerfuffle during a play. A “reasonable accommodation” can be found. A head gear bound in the nape of her neck, or a bandana, or a bathing cap will ensure, at the same time, the hair covering she wishes (and should be free to decide for herself) and her physical security during the game.

How can one tell a person that she needs to remove her face covering for the sole reason that she is Muslim? How can one tell one Muslim women that her clothing preference prevents the “living together” (of whom?), when motorcyclists and persons who do not want to breathe pollution are not requested to abide by the same standard? Why would a face covering prevent the “living together” more than a face full of metallic studs, or even a big beard? How can one seriously argue, without any other information, that a young Muslim woman’s face covering threatens the “rights and freedoms of others”, if a motorcyclist’s helmet doesn’t? How are those “rights and freedoms of others” specifically threatened: What rights? Whose rights? In what circumstances? Should not the same reasoning lead some cities to ban masks at Halloween altogether? What about carnivals? Venice’s would be sorry without the masks.

Freedom of religion, including the right to express one’s religion, should not be a second-class freedom, only acceptable when the majority doesn’t “feel” offended. We would not have same-sex marriage in Canada if Canadian courts had followed this kind of reasoning. Freedom of expression should not be limited based on the single fact that this is a religious expression.

The caveat in the judgement that Muslims should not be singled out seems a very feeble attempt to limit the considerable effect of the judgment. Muslims will have to go to court and spend time, energy and money trying to demonstrate that each specific instance of implementation against them of the ban on face covering is specifically aimed at them as Muslims, which will always be very difficult. In a properly hierarchised scale of values, it should be for the power that wants to restrict the freedom of any individual to justify specifically and individually the necessity and limited nature of the restriction they wish to impose: in this case, the authorities should be asked to demonstrate that the specific request to uncover one’s face is not implemented for the sole reason that the person is Muslim.

The “margin of appreciation” left to States in the case law of the ECtHR should not allow such blatant religious discrimination. Recognising the essential freedom to dress as one wishes, with only limited and specifically justified restrictions, should be essential.

To access the article, please click here